AGRICULTURAL output for 2014/2015 season is likely to decline drastically due to heavy rains and flooding, farmers have said amid fears the over 3% growth by the sector will not be met.
The country was hit by heavy rains which led to flooding in some parts such as Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Midlands, Harare, Masvingo and Manicaland.
In an interview with NewsDay, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) president Abdul Nyati said the quantifications for the areas where crops were heavily damaged by floods are being done and the statistics will be sent to government.
“Many farmers have lost their crops due to floods and we fear that the national output for this season will decline,” Nyati said.
He, however, said currently the quantifications were being donefor areas which have been affected by floods which are Mbire and Muzarabani among others.
“The results are going to be directed to government as they need to know to what extent farmers were affected and who was affected so that the families will be assisted to avoid hunger.
“The challenge is that we received late rains and at the same time we witnessed heavy rains which flooded most of our crops. The yields will be much lower than what we got last year due to late rains and flooding. In some areas if we don’t get the rains until next month, we will be hit by both drought and floods,” he said.
A farmer from Murewa, Mildred Mubai, said most of their crops were heavily damaged by the rains.
“Our crops have been affected, it’s really sad after all the hard work. We were expecting to have a very good harvest, but right now my maize has turned yellow and it does not look good,” Mubai said
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said a number of tobacco farmers were also affected by the heavy rains and most of the infrastructure was damaged.
“Many tobacco curing barns, tobacco handling facilities and general farm infrastructure have been damaged during the incessant and sometimes torrential rains that were experienced from before the Christmas period to early January. Full and consolidated reports are not yet complete, but the worst reports came in from the northern areas of the Mashonaland provinces,” Matibiri said.
Matibiri said as at January 9 2015, a total of 88 500 had registered as tobacco growers for the 2014/15 season as compared to
85 076 who had done so by the same time last year.
However, he encouraged tobacco farmers that in order to realise targeted output, they should apply more top-dressing fertiliser to their crops to give them a growth boost.
He added that it was still too early to predict the final production figure as the growing season started late and many crops are still growing.
Another tobacco farmer in Chinhoyi, Nyasha Parasih, said his crop was not badly affected by the heavy rains, but in another area close by, Chikuti, the dam wall collapsed and all the crop was washed away.
“My crop was not largely affected, but the people in Chikuti were affected mostly as the dam wall collapsed due to the heavy rains and the tobacco was damaged,” Parasih said.
Last year TIMB and tobacco merchants established a Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA) to spearhead reforestation across the country which was meant to counter massive deforestation that was taking place as a result of the increased number of small-scale tobacco farmers.
Matibiri said the SAA had planted 603 hectares of gumtrees, almost 1,5 million trees in 2013 and planned to plant another 3 313 hectares by the end of January 2015.
He added that TIMB in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association was currently distributing without charge 300 000 trees to small-scale tobacco farmers.
According to the 2015 National budget, Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa said the overall agricultural growth for 2015 was projected at 3,4%.
“Prospects for the 2014/2015 agriculture season remain positive, and production in the main crops — maize, tobacco, cotton, among others — is expected to remain on an upward trend.
“This is on the backdrop of Government’s continued commitment to prioritise food security, active private sector participation in financing agriculture, and improvements in farming methods,” he said
Tobacco is the main agriculture export of Zimbabwe and the country is one of the major tobacco exporters in the world.
According to the latest statistics, total flue cured tobacco output in 2014 amounted to 216 million kg, compared to 165,85 million kg realised in 2013.
The surge in tobacco output was attributed to a 10,3% increase in the number of growers, from 78 756 in 2013 to 86 900 in 2014. Correspondingly, hectarage rose by 21,2% from 88 626ha in 2013 to 107 371ha in 2014.
In terms of tobacco sales, a total of $684,87 million was realised in 2014 compared to $610,31 million achieved in 2013, at an average price of $3,17/kg compared to $3,68/kg in 2013.